Sharp LE831 (LC-40LE831E) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Will Phil end up with Yellow fever, or reference colour performance with Sharp's latest Quattron TV
The model we have for review is the Sharp LC-40LE831E 40 inch LED TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specification. Also available is the Sharp LC-46LE831E 46 inch LED TV which has not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a similar performance.
Let’s be honest, up front, we were not overly impressed with last year’s Quattron TV from Sharp, the LE821. It wasn’t a bad HDTV, in terms of features, but the actual implementation of the ‘Yellow’ pixel in addition to the traditional RGB system meant that the Television couldn’t show film or TV material as it was intended to be seen, because it had oversaturated yellow and green colours, adding a golden hour look to all images. We understand manufacturers have to sell product and to get theirs to stand out in a saturated marketplace they need to have some sell up option to hook the consumer in to buy their product. That is why every TV you see in a retail environment is always displaying overly bright images and a severe lack of any colour accuracy. However, when you get your chosen TV home the last thing you want (especially from an LCD panel) is a sun tan due to the excessively bright image, washed out details and colours that resemble the subtlety of radioactive crayons
What was worrying for us with last year’s model was the fact that we couldn’t get a reference image from the TV because the added yellow pixel was always on. We couldn’t correct the errors in the yellow area of the image which also had over-saturated green colour issues that couldn’t be calibrated out. We have no issue with features like Quattron - if it can be switched off - or there is a preset available for those who actually want to watch Film and TV shows properly and as intended. Manufacturers need to have a gimmick or hook to sell their TV, but as soon as that starts to affect image quality and goes completely against the actual standards for content production and playback, it means that really the display is not fit for purpose with those who want the best image quality.
So, after a longer than usual testing and viewing period, have Sharp listened to the feedback given to them regarding image quality? Have they added a way to get accurate images to the industry standards?Let’s find out and the full review can be found after the summary and scores section below…
We were hoping that after last year’s LE821 Sharp would take on board the feedback not only from this review team, but many others worldwide regarding the overly wide colour gamut of the Quattron panel. Thankfully, some progress has been made with this year’s LE831 model where the out of the box movie picture preset has seen a more tamed gamut, plus the addition of a CMS that allows correct calibration. This is a very welcome turn of events and overall we found the Sharp to be a very good LED LCD at the price point.
It does have a few issues with a lack of any smart TV capability to rival its competition and we found one bug with the 10 point greyscale controls. The fact that it is also an LED edge lit panel means that we also see some slight issues with edge light spillage and pooling with very dark test patterns. However, this was overcome somewhat with actual viewing material with only the darkest scenes, within Blu-ray films, showing the issue in any noticeable way. This is more a technology issue than a major fault with the Sharp and we would obviously recommend you view the set to check if this will be an issue for you should you decide to buy it. The out of the box picture settings in movie mode were not perfect but at the same time they produced reasonable images that the majority of consumers would find appealing. Moving to calibrated results and the fact we could get colour accuracy as perfect as possible, on screen, the Sharp was able to produce some very accurate skin tones and show what it is truly capable of in image terms. Black levels are good for an LCD LED TV with good levels of shadow detail and a reasonable dynamic range when compared to competing models in its price range. But it is with 3D where the LE831 does a very good job with very little crosstalk and sharp looking images with a good level of depth without any obvious issues.
It might not have the latest smart TV features and you have to buy 3D glasses separately but, over all, we are happy to say that the Sharp LE831 finally shows that the company are starting to hit the required levels of performance to not only compete, but hopefully start to produce a more regular line-up of good quality LCD screens. We still think that Quattron is nothing more than a marketing addition, and let’s face it every TV manufacturer has their claimed technology that makes them different, but thankfully this year it doesn’t get in the way too much of the picture quality available. We are glad that Sharp have listened to the feedback from last year and have gone some way to making the LE831 more accurate in terms of colour reproduction and we would like to see them go further with a more accurate preset in the future. There are the usual issues; as with almost all LCD models the off-axis viewing angle is quite small before brightness and gamma shifting is seen. But as it stands the LE831 produces some excellent 3D images that are genuinely free from the majority of crosstalk issues that plague other competing LCD models and when calibrated in 2D mode the image quality is highly accurate and appealing.
Given its calibrated 2D images and good quality 3D performance at prices well under the £800 mark we would feel inclined to recommend adding the LE831 to your demo list.
Design and Connections
In today’s world of super slim LED LCD TVs the LE831 is an attractive proposition that has a good level of build quality. It feels and looks like a premium model and at 33mm in thickness it will be slim enough for most living rooms. The bezel is an almost all black affair around the screen with a gun metal strip at the widest part of the bottom of the screen with a lit sharp logo, with the Sharp name directly above in the black portion of the screen bezel. It is not as slim a bezel design as the latest Samsung D8000 models but the rounded silver edges add a nice touch. Of course design is always a personal preference but I did like the black edges to the screen which were not as distracting as some models currently on the market. The provided stand fits neatly with the overall design of the TV and is easy enough to set up and attach within a few minutes. Rounding up the front panel design are the control buttons which are touch sensitive and positioned to the lower right of the screen.
The remote control supplied with the TV is also a nice design and sits easily in the hand. It is light and made from plastic, but all the important buttons are well positioned and intuitive to find, even in the dark. As you would expect the remote allows access directly to well used controls, as well as buttons for using external devices. It has separate options for switching between ATV, DTV, Sat and radio selections as well as time shift controls for digital TV (when set up to record). Overall, the remote control is one of the better examples I have used recently and offers enough control and an intuitive layout.
Around the back of the TV are a varied range of inputs and outputs. As with most modern TV models there are four HDMI inputs positioned on the side of the chassis. HDMI 1 is ARC ready for use with a compliant AVR. On the back panel are a component input, SCART and composite. Also here are a VGA/PC input and RS232C control port. There are also no lack of USB ports with three available, including one for use with an external HDD and an SD card slot for using the online movie rental services or watching content. There is a supplied USB WI-FI dongle, in the box, as well as an Ethernet port for a wired connection to your network and the internet. Rounding off the connections are a CI slot, digital audio output and analogue audio inputs.
Menus and Features
Note: Settings shown in the menu screen shots are not the final calibrated settings and therefore shouldn’t be copied.
The menu system on the Sharp takes a little getting used to with its side frame design. This might have caused some issues when calibrating the TV as the picture is moved to the left hand side, however pressing the control highlighted moves the image back to the full panel and the control menu to the side or bottom of the screen, away from your measuring device area in the centre of the screen.
The main selection items such as ‘tool’ or ‘set up’ appear at the top of the screen with the controls which are relevant to that selection appearing in a list down the right hand side of the screen. As you can imagine there are plenty of set up options under this menu as well as channel lists, source selection, DLNA link setting and of course the main picture menus. The menus react quickly to button commands on the remote control allowing a sleek and speedy experience when using any of the menu options. Another nice feature, with the menus for source selection, is that the TV automatically names the input to whatever source is connected, such as HD Sky for a Sky box and it also displayed the model number of a Samsung BD/PVR source I had connected. The EPG menu for the digital TV channels is a little disappointing as it doesn’t feature any picture in picture mode so you can’t see what you are watching while you browse the EPG full screen menu. The layout is also a little underwhelming with small text which might make reading difficult if you are sat back from the screen.
Moving to the picture menus and we have various picture profiles to select from the usual Dynamic, Standard, Movie, Auto and Game. We chose the Movie profile as this allows us to select the colour gamut in the advanced menu; a very welcome feature with the Quattron panel. Also on the first menu page we find the main front panel controls (i.e. Brightness, Contrast etc.) plus the advanced menu selection. In the advanced menu we have the Colour Management System (CMS) controls for all three axis, i.e. Hue, Saturation and Luminance (Value) along with the Gamut selection tool. This is very important if your intention is like ours in achieving accurate colour on screen as the Quattron technology inherently expands the yellow and green sections of the colour gamut. To get towards accurate colours we want to select the standard option here. Also note that this option is only available in the Movie and Movie (3D) modes, in every other preset the gamut is deliberately wide and should be avoided with film and TV material. Next we have the Colour Temp selection which gives us options for desired temperature ranges as well as manual controls to fine tune the greyscale. We found that the low selection out of the box gave results closest to our desired D65 white point. There is a tem point adjustment mode provided as well as the normal two point manual controls but, try as we might, the ten point selection didn’t work on this sample. The next two options in the advanced menu are what we normally refer to as marketing gimmicks as they had nothing to the picture quality in any desirable way. They are the scanning backlight 200 and Sub pixel control. Interestingly the sub pixel control is described in the manual as ‘reproducing high definition images with more resolution’, I don’t need to point out the flaw with this description do I? All this mode does is increase the sharpness and adds in white edges covering over detail and is best left off. The Gamma control here is a selection control ranging from minus 2 to plus 2. We found that plus 1 (with the low white balance) was closest to our reference 2.2 gamma curve.
The remaining advanced controls were for items such as Active Contrast which adjusts the image depending on the type of scene being viewed and the Film mode selection which is the TVs frame interpolation system which creates frames to add smoothness to fast moving scenes. Both of these were redundant when looking to get the most accurate images from the LE831 and we left them switched off. Sports fans may want to experiment with the film mode on low for things like football viewing.
One of the most common mistakes users make when setting up their TV is to set the aspect ratio for HD material to the 16:9 selection. This is a mistake as in the 16:9 aspect mode the TV is performing a 5% over scan of the image to hide artefacts like program information often transmitted in SD images by broadcasters. However, when watching HD content you want to see every ounce of detail available and to do that we need to switch off the overscan. Different TVs have various names for this function and on the LE831 it is called Dot to Dot. (Other TVs might call it Just Scan, Pixel to Pixel, 1:1 mode and so on). This viewing option is only available with HD images so you need to make sure that when watching HD content the TV automatically selects this or you might have to do it manually.
Using the USB inputs presents you with a few simple choices which range from simple playback of files on the key, or the ability (using a 1GB or higher storage device) to implement time shift recording allowing you to pause and rewind the program you are watching. I have to say that I found this option to be a little unnecessary and after checking that it worked, I never looked at it again. More useful options were the home network connection and USB media drives where you can watch video, listen to music and sample photos on the TV. Set up was painless and the features worked first time around when I sampled my network files through the LE831. Also for those who always ask the question the files types included playback of .mkv and .asf as well as MP4, AVI and DIVXHD file types.
The final menu selections concern 3D playback on the LE831 and are again simple to use. There is a rather good 2D to 3D conversion mode that includes a Parallax adjustment tool as well as full HD 3D playback and side by side and top and bottom. The 2D to 3D conversion here was I have to say pretty good for a processor in a TV, when set to the least obvious depth of 3D. It is not a replacement for 3D material and I wouldn’t dream of using it in everyday life with the LE831, but as a gimmick to impress your friends it looks ok.
To take advantage of the 3D performance of the LE831 you will need to purchase the optional AN-3DG10 glasses. These are pretty comfortable in design and also allow a good amount of light through from the TV making the usual brightness drop off slightly less than with some other 3DTVs. The glasses are battery powered and come with extra nose pads. There is no need to buy a transmitter as this is already built-in to the LE831 chassis.
Measured results out of the box
In this section of the review we are looking to find the best selection of picture controls and profiles that get as close as possible to the industry standards for TV and film viewing. In our opinion every TV should have at least one picture mode which attempts to do this otherwise the TV will never be able to show content viewed as intended. We measured all the possible picture set up options and chose the Movie mode with contrast and brightness adjusted using test patterns to match our surroundings. We also selected the colour gamut ‘Standard’ (only available in movie mode) and colour balance low along with Gamma set at +1 to achieve the following results.
The greyscale is the most important part of the image and is often regarded as the canvas for the rest of the image. This means that the TV should show all shades of White to Black in grey steps, with no grey shades showing any colour shifts such as a red or blue cast. We do this by measuring each shade of grey from black to white and checking to see that the three colours that make up white, when mixed at the right amount, are correct. As you can see above in the RGB balance graph, green tracks along the 100% line with Blue around 7% high and Red about 5% low. This is a very good result for an out of the box setting and our deltaE errors are below 5 for the majority with larger errors at the top end of the scale. We can see colour cast in the greyscale which is visible to the eye, but this is not something every user will notice and the slightly blue white will not be a big concern to many. Gamma also tracks quite well around our desired 2.2 curve. Overall, while not reference level, the greyscale tracking here will likely only be an issue to the trained and enthusiast eyes out there (and of course we can calibrate to get it perfect).
Now our biggest concern with the LE831, and its Quattron panel, is the use of a yellow pixel along with the usual RGB make up and the fact that this made quite an impact on the colour gamut available on last years model. In fact the gamut was so wide, in the yellow and green areas of gamut on last year’s TV (even with calibration it couldn’t be tamed to look accurate), that we deemed the TV not to be fit for those looking to watch TV and Film content as intended. We were so concerned with last years TV that we did make an effort to meet with the Sharp UK product team to voice our concerns about the fact we couldn’t get anything approaching an accurate image from it. We don’t have an issue with new technology if the goal is to improve image quality, while aiming for accuracy when it comes to meeting the same standards as the film and TV makers adhere to in production. After all we all want to watch content as it was supposed to be seen and not with exaggerated colours, or at least we hope that would be the view of most of our readers and polls run in the past have backed that up. So have they listened and is there a picture mode on the LE831 that attempts to get close to the standards?
Extended Gamut option – only available on all picture modes excluding Movie
All the available picture modes are set to the extended colour gamut option which is greyed out in the menus and cannot be changed except for the Movie mode. We will come to movie mode in a second but we thought it would be interesting to measure the extended gamut which is the main Quattron selling point of the TV and show you how it looks.
As you can see the colour gamut (triangle) is wide in all but the Movie mode with all the primary and secondary points (bar magenta) pushed quite wide and on screen this is very obvious with colours that are overly vibrant and strong, especially grass when watching HD golf coverage, for example. Now there will be consumers out there (and some reviewers) who will think this is perfectly ok and will enjoy the look on screen, but as we aim for the ‘as intended’ standard here at AVForums, we wouldn’t be happy with this result was it the only one on offer with the Sharp.
Standard Gamut – Only in Movie mode
Compared to the above result we found it interesting that we had a choice in movie mode to select a standard colour gamut and we assumed that this would be a more restrained, and hopefully, more accurate gamut to the standards.
Well on first impressions we might be hard pressed to see any real improvement here but on closer inspection things have improved slightly, most noticeable with red and yellow but some other areas are still a little pushed. Given the results seen on last year’s Sharp Quattron TV this is a welcome improvement and our errors are not too high for the majority. It is still obvious that green is pushed and this can be seen on screen, but gone is the over the top yellow and red. It’s still not perfect and in the ideal world I would want to see Sharp improve this preset further to meet the standards better. However, there is an improvement on last year’s TV and it is also visible. Plus we have a CMS which should mean we can dial in an accurate image (if the CMS works).
Given we have a suite of controls available for white balance and Colour management we should be able to calibrate the Sharp towards a more accurate image. However, it should be noted that with the LE821 last year, the CMS didn’t work because of the pushed yellow which affected results accordingly. Fingers crossed for this model…
Starting with the grayscale correction first, it was a bit of a disappointment to find that on this sample the 10 point white balance control didn’t work at all. This has been reported back to Sharp for further investigation but in the meantime we found the regular two point (30ire and 80ire) controls worked as they should, albeit a little on the coarse side. Whilst we didn’t get a completely uniform flat result in the RGB balance graph we did hit deltaE errors that were 4 and under for the majority of the stimulus points which resulted in a greyscale free of any visible errors (bar a green tinge at 10% which wasn’t visible even in dark scenes). This is a very good result with our gamma also tracking for the most part at 2.2 as desired. With the coarse controls available this was the best possible result we could manage in the circumstances and to be honest, we doubt anyone would notice the slight errors.
Moving next to the Colour Management System (CMS) and the correction of the colour gamut, we were most pleased that not only did the CMS system work correctly (and tracked correctly with no errors at other stimulus points) but the results were first class on the graph and more importantly on screen with real world material. The first point we corrected was the luminance and balanced this against the colour point saturation values and hue correction. We ended up with what can only be described as a reference result which translated to on screen images with our usual barrage of reference clips. Now, if we can do it, I would suggest to Sharp that they can create a more accurate preset gamut for their TVs. They have improved this far so we will be pushing them to go that extra step.
Using our usual barrage of test discs we set about testing the video processing capabilities of the Sharp and found it performed extremely well with both SD and HD material. Scaling and deinterlacing with standard definition material was very good given good source material with no signs of ringing of edges and no obvious issues with jaggies. Only with low bitrate and highly compressed TV fodder on digital channels did the Sharp struggle and we can’t blame that on the TVs scaling or deinterlacing. We also tested various cadences, for film and video, with the LE831 managing to lock on the most used examples of 2:2 and 3:2.
With HD material I am pleased to report no behind the scenes processing or noise reduction with the image in the dot to dot mode and no induced judder with 24p Blu-ray playback. In fact the LE831 managed everything it was asked to contend with test wise and didn’t give us any reason for concern.
Picture Quality – 2D
Out of the box - in movie mode with the standard gamut selected and the low colour balance - we were impressed with what the Sharp offered up. Colours did, at times, look a little hot and with sports such as Golf and Football, in HD, the grass did have an obvious off hue look. However, where the set did do well was with a solid black level performance (0.04 cd/m2 ANSI) with good amounts of shadow detailing available in the image. It doesn’t get close to matching high quality plasma with shadow detail depth and does suffer from the usual LCD restraints with a slightly reduced dynamic range as it can’t resolve shadows at the very lowest reaches. But with most film and TV material the performance is more than respectable when compared to competing LED LCD screens. With most TV viewing and the occasional film, in the best out of the box settings, the Sharp managed to produce some quite pleasant images with a good overall perceived contrast and range. Only skin tones gave me a little concern in some interview scenes but then we’re really nit picking here. When compared to similar priced Sony and Samsung models the LE831 more than competes in the 2D picture stakes.
As you would expect the calibrated greyscale and colour gamut of the LE831 improves the overall image balance with accurate looking colours and a good balance to skin tones. Image depth is good, when required, and with Blu-ray material the LE831 really does put on a very respectable and accurate image. As with most LED Edge lit TVs there is the on-going problem with edge bleed and sadly the Sharp doesn’t escape from having some issues with light spillage at the edges and some signs of light pooling in the centre of the screen when feeding the panel with a 5ire raster pattern. However, during the majority of TV viewing, I wasn’t particularly drawn to any obvious instances that took me out of watching. This can’t however be said for darker movie material and scope films where it was a little more obvious that we could see light spill. Obviously this is a problem which affects almost all LED edge lit TVs and I cannot say the Sharp is any worse than many we have tested this year, but prospective owners should test for this before purchase to see if it is acceptable or not. We have to also mention that off axis viewing is also restricted before we see a brightness and gamma shift as you get further off centre, something to bear in mind for positioning in your living room.
Picture Quality – 3D
With the LE831 being an active shutter LCD panel I was a little worried about how it would manage with its 3D performance. We have seen some good examples like the DT30 from Panasonic and some pretty awful examples from other manufacturers which are well documented here. However, I needn’t have worried as the Sharp manages to produce some very good 3D results with minimal crosstalk on show.
With the now pretty worn out AVATAR 3D disc to hand as well as some more testing 3D material we set about pushing the Sharp in 3D mode and we have to say we were consistently impressed with the results on offer. There is a good sharpness to images with no obvious signs of crosstalk with the vast majority of material. There is a big brightness fall-off when putting the glasses on and this is about normal with other competing screens. To get the brightness back you will probably find that standard (3D) picture mode is the best option at the cost of colour balance. I was personally impressed with the glasses used by Sharp which are very similar in design to the JVC models used with their projectors. Obviously glasses are a very personal thing and what works for one person will cause issues for another, but I thought they were comfortable enough for watching the odd movie in 3D. Overall, we found the 3D performance to be comfortable enough with very little flicker and a very nice depth to images with few instances of crosstalk and at this price point this is more than welcome.
Input lag results
The LE831 in Game mode averaged a lag time of around 29ms.
Power consumption in calibrated picture mode at 0ire, 50ire and 100ire was 98 watts at all three points.
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3D Quattron 3D LED LCD TV
Size: 40 inch television
Suggested price: £999
Reviewed 16th August, 2011 by Phil Hinton
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.